The Alzheimer's Support Network was started under another name in 1982. If you were born before 1960, think back to the early 80's. Alzheimer's was not a household word. Despite being described by Dr. Alois Alzheimer in 1906, Alzheimer's disease was largely an uncommon diagnosis until decades later. In the late 1970's, Suky (Susan) Pollard was worried about her parents who lived in Naples, Florida. When coming down for a visit, she found her father was in the middle stages of a disease that caused profound cognitive impairment. This was crushing to Suky who knew her dad as worldly, profoundly successful professional. He had been CEO of American Optical. Now, he had trouble expressing himself in complete sentences.
E.W. Schumacher CEO, American Optical E.W. Schumacher (1970's)
Worse yet, Suky's mom, Catherine, was trying to hide Elden's illness from everyone, including her children. After discovering the perilous situation, Suky feveriously sought out help. But little was known about diseases like Alzheimer's then, and no social service organizations existed to help families navigate this confusing and heartbreaker terrain. After searching for many months and discovering a profound gap in services, Suky, with her husband Chuck, decided they had to do something to address an issue that was far larger than their own family's predicament. This was how the Alzheimer's Support Network was born.
Catherine Schumacher (Suky's mom) Suky & Chuck Pollard
From 1982 until 1993, Chuck and Suky Pollard grew the Network from a single meeting to a nonprofit serving hundreds of people in Collier County. In 1993, together with their Board of Directors, they decided to join the Alzheimer's Association. After only a year as the first association chapter in Collier Country, they became disillusioned with the fundraising goals set by the leadership in Chicago. Determine to place their efforts on serving families and to ensure a focus exclusively on Collier County; they concluded they needed to withdraw from the Alzheimer's Association and return to being an independent organization. They were the first chapter of the Association to break away.
The first "Elephant Fest" in 1994
In 1994, after one year with the Alzheimer's Association, Chuck and Suky reconstituted an independent nonprofit whose mission was not research or fundraising but rather solely focused on making the lives better for those who had Alzheimer's and other forms of cognitive impairment. They adopted the official motto: "Remembering those who forget." Simply put, this means that people who have Alzheimer's are not second-class citizens. While they are undergoing tremendous changes due to a disease, their humanity and their essence as individuals must never be forgotten.
While the official motto was "remembering those who forget" the unofficial motto was "caring for the caregiver." This still describes the intent and focus of the Alzheimer's Support Network to this day. It is why we have so many support groups (over 30 each month). It is why, before the internet, Suky & Chuck ran a 24-hour helpline that they answered in the office during the day and in their home at night. They knew that Alzheimer's is a disease that affects the entire family and often the best care that be provided is to support, guide, educate, and nourish those who will care for their families members with Alzheimer's.
First Logo of the Alzheimer's Support Network History of the Network from 1970's to 1994